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‘No amnesty!’: Brazilian protests demand jail for rioters

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‘No amnesty!’: Brazilian protests demand jail for rioters

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — “No amnesty! No amnesty! No amnesty!”

The chant reverberated off the walls of the jam-packed hall at the University of Sao Paulo’s law college on Monday afternoon. Hours later, it was the rallying cry for thousands of Brazilians who streamed into the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, penned on protest posters and banners.

The words are a demand for retribution against supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro who stormed Brazil’s capital Sunday, and those who enabled the rampage.

“These people need to be punished, the people who ordered it need to be punished, those who gave money for it need to be punished,” Bety Amin, a 61-year-old therapist, said on Sao Paulo’s main boulevard. The word “DEMOCRACY” stretched across the back of her shirt. “They don’t represent Brazil. We represent Brazil.”

Protesters’ push for accountability evokes memories of an amnesty law that for decades has protected military members accused of abuse and murder during the country’s 1964-85 dictatorship. A 2014 truth commission report sparked debate over how Brazil has grappled with the regime’s legacy.

Declining to mete out punishment “can avoid tensions at the moment, but perpetuates instability,” Luis Felipe Miguel, a professor of political science at the University of Brasilia, wrote in a column entitled “No Amnesty” published Monday evening. “That is the lesson we should have learned from the end of the military dictatorship, when Brazil opted not to punish the regime’s killers and torturers.”

Brazilian police on Monday had already rounded up roughly 1,500 rioters, with some caught in the act of trashing Brazil’s Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace, while the majority were detained the following morning at an encampment in Brasilia. Many were held in a gymnasium throughout the day, and video shared on pro-Bolsonaro social media channels showed some complaining about poor treatment in the crowded space.

The Federal Police’s press office told The Associated Press the force plans to indict at least 1,000 people, and has begun transferring them to the nearby Papuda prison.

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The administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says that is only the start.

Justice minister Flávio Dino vowed to prosecute those who acted behind the scenes to summon supporters on social media and finance their transport for crimes including organized crime, staging a coup, and violent abolition of the democratic rule of law. He also said authorities would investigate allegations that local security personnel allowed the destruction to proceed unabated.

“We cannot and will not compromise in fulfilling our legal duties,” Dino said. “This fulfillment is essential so such events do not repeat themselves.”

Lula signed a decree ordering the federal government to assume control of security in the capital Sunday. It was approved by Congress’ Lower House on Monday night, and now proceeds to the Senate.

The riot in Brasilia was a reminder of the threat to democracy posed by far-right elements that refuse to accept Bolsonaro’s electoral defeat. Since his Oct. 30 loss, they have camped outside military barracks, pleading for intervention to allow Bolsonaro to remain in power and oust Lula. When no coup materialized, they rose up themselves.

Decked out in the green and yellow of the national flag, they broke windows, toppled furniture and hurled computers and printers to the ground. They punched holes in a massive Emiliano Di Cavalcanti painting at the presidential palace and destroyed other works of art. They overturned the U-shaped table where Supreme Court justices convene, ripped a door off one justice’s office and vandalized a statue outside the court. Hours passed before police expelled the mob.

“It’s unacceptable what happened yesterday. It’s terrorism,” Marcelo Menezes, a 59-year-old police officer from northeastern Pernambuco state, said at a protest in Sao Paulo. “I’m here in defense of democracy, I’m here in defense of the people.”

Cries of “No amnesty!” were also heard during Lula’s Jan. 1 inaugural address, in response to the president detailing the neglect of the outgoing Bolsonaro administration.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has waxed nostalgic for the dictatorship era, praised a notorious torturer as a hero and said the regime should have gone further in executing communists. His government also commemorated the anniversary of Brazil’s 1964 coup.

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Political analysts had repeatedly warned that Bolsonaro was laying the groundwork for an insurrection in the mold of that which unfolded in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. For months, he stoked belief among hardcore supporters that the nation’s electronic voting system was prone to fraud — though he never presented any evidence and independent experts disagreed.

Results from the election, the closest since Brazil’s return to democracy, were quickly recognized by politicians across the spectrum, including some Bolsonaro allies, as well as dozens of other governments. The outgoing president surprised nearly everyone by promptly fading from view, neither conceding defeat nor emphatically crying fraud. He and his party submitted a request to nullify millions of votes, which was swiftly dismissed by the electoral authority.

None of that dissuaded his die-hard backers from their conviction that Bolsonaro belonged in power.

In the immediate aftermath of the riot, Lula said that the so-called “fascist fanatics” and their financial backers must be held responsible. He also accused Bolsonaro of encouraging the uprising.

Bolsonaro denied the president’s accusation Sunday. Writing on Twitter, he said peaceful protest is part of democracy, but vandalism and invasion of public buildings cross the line.

Authorities are also investigating the role of the federal district’s police in either failing to halt protesters’ advance or standing aside to let them run amok. Prosecutors in the capital said local security forces were negligent at the very least. A supreme court justice temporarily suspended the regional governor, who oversees the force, for what he termed “willful omission”. Another justice blamed authorities across Brazil for not swiftly cracking down on “homegrown neofascism.”

The upheaval finally prompted municipal and state governments to disperse pro-Bolsonaro encampments outside military barracks that have lasted since the election. Their tents and tarps were taken down, and residents were sent packing.

But pro-democracy protesters on Monday sought to ensure that their message — “No amnesty!” — was heard by the authorities responsible for investigating and prosecuting, as well as far-right elements who might dare defy democracy again.

“After what happened yesterday, we need to go to the street,” said Marcos Gama, a retiree who protested Monday night in Sao Paulo. “We need to react.”

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AP videojournalist Mello reported from Sao Paulo.

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli leaders on Sunday credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct Iranian attack involving hundreds of drones and missiles, calling the coordinated response a starting point for a “strategic alliance” of regional opposition to Tehran.

But Israel’s War Cabinet met without making a decision on next steps, an official said, as a nervous world waited for any sign of further escalation of the former shadow war.

The military coalition, led by the United States, Britain and France and appearing to include a number of Middle Eastern countries, gave Israel support at a time when it finds itself isolated over its war against Hamas in Gaza. The coalition also could serve as a model for regional relations when that war ends.

“This was the first time that such a coalition worked together against the threat of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” said the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

One unknown is which of Israel’s neighbors participated in the shooting down of the vast majority of about 350 drones and missiles Iran launched. Israeli military officials and a key War Cabinet member noted additional “partners” without naming them. When pressed, White House national security spokesman John Kirby would not name them either.

But one appeared to be Jordan, which described its action as self-defense.

“There was an assessment that there was a real danger of Iranian marches and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. And if this danger came from Israel, Jordan would take the same action,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said in an interview on Al-Mamlaka state television. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday.

The U.S. has long tried to forge a regionwide alliance against Iran as a way of integrating Israel and boosting ties with the Arab world. The effort has included the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries, and having Israel in the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and works closely with the armies of moderate Arab states.

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The U.S. had been working to establish full relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. The war, which has claimed over 33,700 Palestinian lives, has frozen those efforts due to widespread outrage across the Arab world. But it appears that some behind-the-scenes cooperation has continued, and the White House has held out hopes of forging Israel-Saudi ties as part of a postwar plan.

Just ahead of Iran’s attack, the commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Israel to map out a strategy.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Sunday thanked CENTCOM for the joint defensive effort. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are under the CENTCOM umbrella. While neither acknowledged involvement in intercepting Iran’s launches, the Israeli military released a map showing missiles traveling through the airspace of both nations.

“Arab countries came to the aid of Israel in stopping the attack because they understand that regional organizing is required against Iran, otherwise they will be next in line,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and that the cooperation “highlighted the opportunity to establish an international coalition and strategic alliance to counter the threat posed by Iran.”

The White House signaled that it hopes to build on the partnerships and urged Israel to think twice before striking Iran. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

Israel’s War Cabinet met late Sunday to discuss a possible response, but an Israeli official familiar with the talks said no decisions had been made. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential deliberations.

Asked about plans for retaliation, Hagari declined to comment directly. “We are at high readiness in all fronts,” he said.

“We will build a regional coalition and collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us,” said a key War Cabinet member, Benny Gantz.

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Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria this month and killed two Iranian generals.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over, and Israel reopened its airspace. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The foes have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but Sunday’s assault was the first time Iran launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran said it targeted Israeli facilities involved in the Damascus strike, and that it told the White House early Sunday that the operation would be “minimalistic.”

But U.S. officials said Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation. At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles were in the air with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said.

Israel said more than 99% of what Iran fired was intercepted, with just a few missiles getting through. An Israeli airbase sustained minor damage.

Israel has over the years established — often with the help of the U.S. — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats, including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and others, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already deeply engaged in Gaza as well as low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image after the Hamas attack in October, what the Middle East’s best-equipped army does next will be closely watched in the region and in Western capitals — especially as Israel seeks to develop the coalition it praised Sunday.

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In Washington, Biden pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would hold talks with allies. After an urgent meeting, the Group of Seven countries unanimously condemned Iran’s attack and said they stood ready to take “further measures.”

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s war in Gaza. In the Oct. 7 attack, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Hamas welcomed Iran’s attack, saying it was “a natural right and a deserved response” to the strike in Syria. It urged the Iran-backed groups in the region to continue to support Hamas in the war.

Hezbollah also welcomed the attack. Almost immediately after the war in Gaza erupted, Hezbollah began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

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Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Michelle L. Price in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan; and Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

New York lawmakers are proposing rules to humanely drive down the population of rats and other rodents, eyeing contraception and a ban on glue traps as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to battle the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and statewide measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea to distribute rat contraceptives got fresh attention in city government Thursday following the death of an escaped zoo owl, known as Flaco, who was found dead with rat poison in his system.

City Council Member Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program for controlling the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots by using birth control instead of lethal chemicals. Abreu, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said the contraceptives also are more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, is contained in salty, fatty pellets that are scattered in rat-infested areas as bait. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and disrupting sperm cell production in males, The New York Times reported.

New York exterminators currently kill rats using snap and glue traps, poisons that make them bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who runs pest management company Scurry Inc. in New York City with his wife, said the best method he has found when dealing with rodents is carbon monoxide.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide euthanizes the rats slowly, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

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Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made from a slab of cardboard or plastic coated in a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on its surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps, because he uses them on other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants get into a house, he uses sticky traps to figure out where they’re most often passing by. It helps him narrow zones of pesticide use “so that you don’t go spray the entire place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill our way out of,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It’s time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two cities in California have passed bans on glue traps in recent years. On the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It ends a really inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and more humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams hired a “rat czar” last year tasked with battling the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served up to rats by mandating all businesses to put trash out in boxes.

While the war on rats has no end in sight, the exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They’re very smart, and they’re very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring but just — not in my house.”

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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